When I think of interesting magic systems, the Coldfire trilogy by C.S. Friedman comes to mind. This never ceases to amuse me, since this is one of the few series I’ve read that seems to truly float freely between the fantasy and sci-fi genre (seeing the two genres smushed indiscriminately together as one is a pet peeve of mine), weaving the best from both genres into something alien and fantastical.
Even though it’s been a while since I’ve reread the series, it’s one that stands out to me because of the creativity in the author’s use of magic. Well, that, and the character of Gerald Tarrant, who is both terrifying and fascinating in pretty equal measure.
The magic in the Coldfire trilogy stands out to me because of its origin. It’s an innate force in the world. The story itself takes place on Erna, a planet that was colonized by humans over a thousand years before the events in the book. Erna is covered by a sort of energy known as the Fae. This energy interacts with humans in ways that were unexpected: it gives life to dreams, and form to nightmares. These nightmares aren’t just illusion, though: they can cause pain and even kill.
The Fae sort of works against humanity in the way that humans are affected. However, there are some who can work with the Fae and mold it, so to speak. What I find interesting about magic in this world is that it isn’t necessarily anathema to those of religion, but it gives the characters a way to explore their faith, their morality and, ultimately, their very humanity. The magic- or natural force- in the Coldfire trilogy is what stirs the plot and gives the characters their motivation.
C.S. Friedman obviously put a lot of thought into how her magic works. There are multiple types of Fae, each with its own slight differences. There is Tide Fae, its power ebbing and flowing with the tides. It is mainly used by a race known as the rakh. Then, there’s Earth Fae, which is what is mainly used by sorcerers and adepts. Solar Fae is the third kind of Fae. This is too powerful to really be used, although a group of church adepts used it to create powerful weapons at one point. Finally, there’s the Dark Fae. Used only by the Hunter (which I will not spoil here), it is only matched in power by the Solar Fae. I personally think the Dark Fae is most interesting because of the way it can be used. It’s a bit grim and utterly fascinating. It is basically a reflection of the worst in humanity and it is incredibly powerful.
The Fae in the Coldfire trilogy is really nothing like the fae of mythology other than in the wild, untamed quality it has. I love how everything in the world is affected by it in some way.
For more from this series:
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Wheel of Time
From Merlin to Mistborn: A Discussion on Magic- Magic in the Copper Circle
About the Blogger:
Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub: Jodie is the creator of the Witty and Sarcastic Bookclub blog and a contributor to Grimdark Magazine. She either lives in Florida with her husband and sons, or in a fantasy book-she’ll never tell which. When she’s not reading, Jodie balances her time between homeschooling her hooligans, playing Dungeons and Dragons, and lamenting her inability to pronounce “lozenge”.
Find her online at :